Caveat Genitor, or, How Not to Get Flattered Into Free Work

Yay! Another opportunity not to get paid for something

I once met a woman who worked in the development department of a cable television network.

She shamefully admitted that her job as a producer was to invite freelancers writers into her office, gush over their portfolio, ask them a thousand questions, listen attentively, take copious notes on their brilliant ideas, act like she was going to hire them, and then just have an internal staff person execute their work instead.

And the worst part, she said, was that she wasn’t allowed to follow up with any of the freelancers. Because rejecting them could mean an end to the relationship, and the network might need to use them again in the future. And so, instead of saying so, she just said nothing.


Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor. The idea that a massive organization with million of dollars would take advantage of smart, creative people in that way absolutely disgusted me.

And I didn’t want to believe it was true, either. Until it happened to me. Several times. Organizations invited me to come in for interviews, but because my hunger to contribute overshadowed my resistance to exploitation, I let them flatter me into doing free work.

That’s the reality we live in. Companies simply don’t need the same amount of people anymore to be as productive as they’ve always been. And if they have the chance to extract good ideas from young, ambitious, intelligent freelancers without compensating them, they’re going to take it.

Caveat genitor, to coin a phrase.

Remember, before taking that meeting, always ask yourself if it’s an opportunity or an opportunity to be used.

When was the last time you allowed somebody to flatter you into free work?

For a copy of the list called, “8 Ways to Move Quickly on New Opportunities,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.

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Written by

Author. Speaker. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Founder of Pioneer of Personal Creativity Management (PCM). I also wear a nametag 24/7.

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